Located approximately 20 minutes from New York’s capital of Albany, you will find Schenectady, most famous for its rich history and accomplishment! Schenectady is the birthplace of General Electric as well as the home of Proctor’s Theater; however, it is the people of Schenectady who have made this possible.
As of 2020, the population of Schenectady stands at about 66,107 people, making it the 9th largest city in the state of New York, as well as the 581st largest city in the United States. Comparing it to its neighboring cities, such as Saratoga Springs with a population of approximately 28,355 people and Albany with a population of approximately 96,853 people, Schenectady is medially between the two; however, this does not take away from the diversity of its citizens. Among those 66,107 people, there is an average household income of $57,639, however, there is also an 18.43% poverty rate. With such a high poverty rate that is only increasing, materials become harder and harder for those to access as a variety of social determinants become obstacles. As a result of this, people now have to make choices when it comes to necessary resources, asking themselves: what do I need now? And what could I make it by without?
Schenectady is powered by the growth of the working and middle classes. Although, more often than not, those from a lower socioeconomic standpoint are left out of the broadening and development of the up-and-coming Schenectady community, leading to a limited amount of resources available to these families. However, in attempts to assist these under-resourced communities, Schenectady local officials have been working with other local organizations to provide some of the everyday, necessary supplies and resources that these communities may be lacking, such as healthy food and greenspace.
While there are food pantries throughout Schenectady that are welcoming to all people, such as the City Mission of Schenectady Meals, Schenectady Inner City Ministry-SICM Food Pantry, and the Salvation Army Schenectady Food Assistance, there has been a new resource for inner-city Schenectady neighborhoods to receive access to fresh, affordable produce: The Veggie Mobile, presented by Capital Roots.
Aside from simply just supplying the Schenectady community with access to fresh food, the Capital Roots’ Veggie Mobile provides its customers with recipes that incorporate the produce that can be found on the truck, and even lets them sample them! Additionally, the Veggie Mobile accepts a variety of payments including cash, check, EBT, Veggie Rx, WIC Fruit and Veggie Check, FMNP, Capital Roots sponsored certificates, and FreshConnect Checks.
Aside from providing the Schenectady community with fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables, local Schenectady officials have been working with the legislature to expand the greenspace that is currently available to the people. Green space has not only been shown to increase the activity level within a community, but it also provides health benefits across a population. By creating more space that people are able to use for recreational or aesthetic purposes in Schenectady, it can encourage those in the community to exercise and socialize more, as well as decrease the noise and air pollution, providing overall benefits.
In an effort to expand local green-space, the Schenectady County Legislature plans to expand
the Indian Preserve in the Town of Glenville by purchasing 11.82 acres adjoining the already existing 128-acre preserve. The preserve features a foot trail as well as streams and ponds for fishing, but the trail is currently blocked off as the County does not own the property. “Preserving green space, open space and recreational opportunities or our residents is one of our top priorities,” said Sara Mae Pratt, a member of the County Legislature and the County IDA/Capital Resource Corporation Board.
How COVID-19 has Affected the Community
Although Schenectady has the necessary materials to provide adequate food resources to its people, the question now becomes: has the recent COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected the Schenectady’s community’s ability to provide these resources?
A recent Times Union article described how “Hundreds of cars lined up [back in April] at Schenectady County Community College where volunteers filled trunks of vehicles with free food,” however will this food soon run out? And what other services will these food pantries now be unable to provide?
Likewise, the Schenectady Inner City Ministry Food Pantry (SiCM) has made it their mission to relate the resources of the congregations to the needs of the community by providing everyone access to healthy, nutritious food. Not only does SiCM provide a food pantry for those in need, they also provide an array of support services ranging from on-site help with Food Stamps/SNAP applications to Senior Connect Programs that introduce seniors to new food programs in an attempt to provide activities that encourage healthy food and lifestyle choices. However, now during the current COVID-19 pandemic, SiCM has had to make changes to their programs in order to remain safe, even if they came at the expense of their community members.
Beginning early March, SiCM was unable to provide transportation and mass distribution to those they assisted; while this may seem unproblematic to some, many of those who they assist are from less advantaged communities who relied on this transportation to receive their necessary resources. Additionally, by being unable to fulfill mass distributions, unintentionally SiCM underserved their population, leaving them at a loss.
Capital Roots: The Veggie Mobile ®, https://www.capitalroots.org/programs/veggie/veggie/.
“Food Program.” Schenectady Inner City Ministry, 22 July 2020, https://www.sicm.us/about-us/food-program/.
Nelson, Paul. “Hundreds Line up for Food Bank at Schenectady County Community College.” Time Union, Times Union, 23 April 2020. https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Hundreds-line-up-for-food-bank-at-Schenectady-15218336.php.
“Schenectady County.” Schenectady County to Add Green Space with the Expansion of the Indian Kill Nature Preserve in the Town of Glenville | Schenectady County, https://www.schenectadycounty.com/content/schenectady-county-add-green-space-expansion-indian-kill-nature-preserve-town-glenville.
“Schenectady, New York Population 2020.” Schenectady, New York Population 2020 (Demographics, Maps, Graphs), https://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/schenectady-ny-population.
“Veggie RX: Prescribing Healthy Foods.” Capital Roots: VeggieRX, https://www.capitalroots.org/programs/veggierx/.